Jeff G. Cohu

Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department or School

Leadership and Counseling

Committee Member

Martha Tack, Ph.D., Chair

Committee Member

William Anderson, Ed.D.

Committee Member

James Berry, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Mary Vielhaber, Ph.D.


The purpose of this study was to explore and examine factors leading to fundraising success in church-related colleges and universities that have not secularized their Christian mission, governance, and denominational relationships. This study posed research questions concerning both the specific strategies and leadership behaviors used by individual leaders at successful institutions in the church-related niche of higher education.

The methodology used in this qualitative study featured a grounded theory approach blended with some elements of a comparative study approach. Five institutions were selected based on a purposeful sampling strategy. The data collection methods included in-depth, semi-structured interviews with key institutional leaders supported by observation and document analysis. Emergent themes were captured through an intense data analysis, interpretation, and coding process utilizing grounded theory techniques. This technique also produced thick contextual descriptions of the sample institutions.

The study found that a unique set of strategic management themes lead to fundraising success. These included the creation and communication of a brand image based on mission fulfillment, the use of a focused differentiation strategy, a 3-tiered concentric donor segmentation process, and an operations strategy of sticking to core competencies. The study also found general leadership themes leading to fundraising success. These leadership themes included a highly engaged and mission-oriented board; a president who can visibly embody the institutional mission and is skilled at the key leadership behaviors of boundary-spanning, story-telling and cooption; and a professionally-trained development staff who practice learning organization concepts in a team-based model. The study concludes with recommendations for practice and further research.

Included in

Religion Commons